Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Keeping All Options Open To Protect Freedom Of Access To Space.

James Oberg writes an interesting column in The Space Review this week busting 12 myths of the weaponization of space. Here's one of the myths he takes on.
"Western news dispatches from Moscow, reporting on Russian official complaints about the policy, stated that it asserted the right “to deny adversaries access to space for hostile purposes,” and that it claimed the right (some say “tacitly”) for the US to deploy weapons in space. Vitaly Davidov, deputy head of the Russian Space Agency, complained: “They [the US] want to dictate to others who is allowed to go there.”

But the actual policy document makes no such claim and displays no such intent to “deny” access. The Russian anxiety, echoed on the editorial pages and in news stories around the world, is apparently based on some over-wrought page 1 stories in US newspapers, written by people too careless to actually read the original US document and subsequent official US government clarifications, or too eager to misinterpret it in the most alarmingly stark terms."
But here's a quote from the new policy.
"• The United States considers space capabilities -- including the ground and space segments and supporting links -- vital to its national interests. Consistent with this policy, the United States will: preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests;" (See pp. 1-2 of OSTP pdf here [emphasis added].)
Later, the policy document directs the Secretary of Defense to
"...Develop capabilities, plans, and options to ensure freedom of action in space, and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries;" (See p. 5 of OSTP pdf at link above.)
While the new space policy makes no claim the US will deny access to space to other countries as a general rule, if your country is an American enemy threatening America's freedom of action in space, well, that's a whole 'nother story. If other countries perceive a threat in a policy statement that says the US will act against its enemies to protect its space capabilities, then America had better keep a watchful eye on those countries.

The United States should have a policy aimed at keeping access to space open and deterring those who would deny that access to America or other nations. America helped usher in today's globalized and interconnected world by promoting a policy of freedom of the seas, and having a Navy capable of implementing that policy. As humanity moves out from Earth and brings space into the world's economic sphere, America should promote and protect freedom of access to space. If it takes using military force, so be it.

-tdr

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